Friday, 27 February 2015

Today's Garden Goodness & Basil Pesto

Today is clean up day and part of my tidy is pruning the roses, picking the weeds and sweeping the patio.  It is a 'cool' 28 degrees with a nice breeze so I have managed to get quite a bit done.  

My tomatoes and corn are completely finished.  I managed to produce 8 full sized ears of corn and about another 6 baby corn for a stir-fry.  The tomatoes were really abundant and we enjoyed colourful bowlful after bowlful.  Now all that is left is my chilli peppers and a few mixed herbs.  I couldn't resist letting a few of my chives go to flower as they are so pretty.  I think we can safely enjoy these in our mashed potatoes and potato salads for a bit longer.

I cut back all my basil and made pesto for the freezer and it looks like I will have a second blush to make a bit more.  Yum!  Pesto is pretty easy to make.  I don't follow a recipe.  I just whiz up what I have but usually include:

  • a bunch of basil
  • the juice of 1-2 lemons
  • the zest of 1-2 lemons
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • a bunch of green onions
  • a healthy glug of olive oil - enough to make it a runny consistency
  • walnuts or pine nuts (optional)

I leave the Parmesan cheese out as I am allergic to dairy but this can be added back in to individual dishes if some hold the cheese and some don't.  Whiz the ingredients up in a blender or food processor and adjust seasonings to taste.   Pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays to pop out when you need it or refrigerated in a sterilized jar for up to a couple of weeks.  The kids love it on zucchini noodles; as a marinade for chicken or fish; or stirred into pasta with some cherry tomatoes for school lunches.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Sauerkraut Making Time Again

Yep,  we are just about out of the 6kgs of sauerkraut made previous and the kraut making has begun.  This time, I am reducing my shredded cabbage to about 5kgs as I think I was pushing it to ensure sufficient 'burping' space with 6 kgs packed in the crock.  

The shredding has gone smoothly with only one minor cut finger as I was washing my shredder.  This compliments my shredded knuckle from some major granola bar making two days previous.  Yes, apparently one can injure oneself pounding granola bar mixture into a pan with frenetic enthusiasm!  

Only five weeks until this batch of kraut is ready.  May we last until then.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Any Kind of Nut or Seed Butter

Ever since I developed an allergy to dairy, I have increased my consumption of nut and seed butters. I was always a big yogurt and cheese eater so I needed a protein substitute and peanut/ seed butter helped me out a bit.  

With concern about the hydrogenation of oils and sugar added to store-bought peanut butter, our family switched to the non-hydrogenated and no-sugar added peanut butter; now we can't eat any peanut butter with added sugar or emulsifiers as it tastes really sweet and gloggy.  

Since our interstate move, we have found the price of this natural kind of peanut butter to be much dearer and in rather small containers so I have sourced my own peanuts and started making my own. I try to buy blanched, raw, organic peanuts when affordable otherwise go for unorganic blanched peanuts from a trusted quality source.   I use seed butters for anything we send to school especially as a binding ingredient in homemade granola bars.

This peanut/seed butter recipe is easy to make if you have a high speed blender.  My blender is a Vitamix knock-off from a grocery store chain called Aldi.  For $99, it is a pretty good substitute for a Vitamix which retails for a minimum of $799 here in Oz.  To clean-up from nut or seed butter making, just add water and a splash of liquid soap to the blending jug and whiz, rinse and repeat until clean.

  • 4 cups of lightly roasted nuts or seeds
  • 4 Tbps. coconut oil
  • 3/4 tsp. unrefined sea salt

In a high speed blender, add coconut oil, sea salt and nuts/seeds.  Pulse for about 2 minutes until peanuts start to break up.  Then turn blender on regular speed and slowly work up to high.  If the nuts or seeds don't start to liquefy, use the tamper to push down until they start to blend smoothly.  Follow your blender's manufacturer instructions and you should achieve a smooth creamy nut or seed butter that is delicious.

Pour the nut/seed butter into a sterilized jar and refrigerate.  To sterilize the jars, simply pour boiling water into a glass jar and lid.  Leave the boiling water in the lid and jar for about five minutes and then empty and place upside down in a oven at about 100 degrees Celsius or 200 degree Fahrenheit until you are ready to pour in the butter.  This product will keep indefinitely with proper sterilization and refrigeration.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Spiced Apple Chips

Variety is said to be the spice of life and it is never more true than with school lunches.  I am not a big fan of the good old staple sandwich so I am always trying to provide some new, interesting, and easy lunches that keep things varied.

This week I made dehydrated apple chips for a snack in the kids' school lunch box. I wanted to add a bit of a twist to just the plain sliced and dehydrated variety so I added some extra ingredients to the process to get a bit more flavour and zing.  These apple snacks are especially great as they don't require refrigeration and I don't get anymore bruised, spoiled, or half-eaten apples back in time for the end-of-day lunch box clean out!

4 cups of filtered water
2 tsps. of citric acid
2 Tbsps. honey
1 tsp. powdered cinnamon
1 tsps. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. powdered allspice
1 kilogram of apples

In a large bowl combine and thoroughly mix the filtered water, citric acid, honey and spices.  The citric acid will prevent the slices from turning brown but it does add a mildly sour taste to the chip and I balance that out with the honey.  Look for citric acid in the baking aisle of your grocery store.

Next,  wash and core the apples.  I used a sweeter variety but any favourite type of apple will do.  Next slice each apple into 3 mm slices.  Remember that if you slice the fruit too thin then the slices will dry out to the consistency of paper so around 3mm is about right to get a chewy ring.

Lastly, soak the slices in the citric acid and spice mixture for ten minutes and then place evenly in your food dehydrator or oven. don't overlap the apples on the tray.  Set your temperature settings to a medium heat and dehydrate until dry to the touch and chewy; temperature and drying times depend on the type of dehydrator that you own.  If using the oven then heat it to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degree Celsius and then turn off the oven; lay the apple rings onto baking paper and leave in oven until dried out and chewy.

This process can be duplicated successfully with pears, plums or nectarines.  The plums and nectarines need to be pitted and cut into quarters, soaked in the citric acid mixture for ten minutes but the drying times will take much longer.  If your plums are small then cut them in half.  This gives you a good sized piece of dehydrated fruit to munch on.  Adjust your drying times for stone fruit based on your dehydrator.

In the meantime, your apples should be chewy and delicious with a gentle kick of spice.  Store in an airtight container or bag.  These chips shouldn't last long!